Thursday, 18 December 2014

For all of you who wonder what it's like to have a writing coach - here is the exact same article that I posted on Monday, but now it is so much better! Read on and be amazed at the difference a writing coach can make....

Survival’s been my goal the last four or five Christmases. Managing the season’s expenses as a single Mom with four kids meant couponing, cashing in points and shopping in WalMart’s clearance section.

Being super-thrifty has become my way of life. After all, my Mom was a frugal McDougall, and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But this year is different. Why? Because my lovely husband Jarrett taught me a couple months ago: My kids don’t know how to give each other gifts. 

Sure, we did Secret Santa each year. We drew names and spent a whopping five dollars on each other. I gave them gifts from me and Santa and Mama (Grandma). We hung stockings and stuffed them with five requisite items. Terry’s Chocolate Orange was the highlight. 

I know Christmas is about giving, not receiving. (Yes, I know it’s actually about Jesus birth;  I know Him intimately) But I was so consumed with ensuring my kids received,  that I didn’t provide them opportunity to give. I never noticed that, but Jarrett did—especially on birthdays.

So Jarrett devised a plan: give each kid $100 and charge them with the task of buying their siblings a thoughtful Christmas present. No gift cards allowed.

My inner frugal McDougall had a conniption. What happened to good stewardship? Couldn’t they give each other hand made coupons and be happy? Between us, we have five kids. That’s a lot of money! But Jarrett says, “We can be generous. Our budget can handle one month of perceived excess.”

Most of the kids are delighted, but the oldest feels inconvenienced. “We’ve never done this before,” he says. “Why the sudden material display of affection?”

In the last two weeks, we’ve put up the tree, decorated the house and baked Christmas goodies. But something else more important has taken place. The kids are holding late night secret meetings, passing notes, asking new questions and giggling. Fun!

Ten days remain before Saint Nick arrives. The tree has more gifts stacked under it than ever before, and I struggle with thinking I’ve sold out to materialism. I need to remind myself that this experiment isn’t about things. 

It’s reminding me that, in many ways, my winter season has ended. It’s acknowledging that this may be my eldest’s last Christmas at home for awhile. Next year he heads to university and he’ll spend  December 25, 2015 at his dad’s.  It’s giving my kids the opportunity to experience extravagance—like Jesus’ extravagant love for us, His kids. 

I can celebrate that. 

Monday, 15 December 2014

In praise of the "over the top" Christmas

The last four or five Christmases have been about survival for me. Becoming a single mother and managing Christmas when you have four kids was about couponing, cashing in points and the clearance section at WalMart.

This year is different. I didn’t set out thinking that it would be different. For me, being super-thrifty has become a way of life. (My Mom was a frugal McDougall and the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree) But my lovely husband Jarrett pointed out something to me a couple months back:

My kids don’t know how to give each other gifts.

Sure, we did Secret Santa each year, where we’d draw names and spend a whopping $5.00 on each other. I would give them gifts from me and Santa and Mama (Grandma). And there would be the stocking with the requisite 5 elements. Terry’s Chocolate Orange was the highlight.  Not much more past that though.

I do know that Christmas is about giving, not receiving. (Yes, I know that it’s actually about Jesus being born, I am intimately acquainted with Him) But I have been so consumed with making sure my kids received, I have not given them opportunity to give. I didn’t think much of it, but Jarrett noticed it, especially when it came to birthdays.

So he came up with a plan: give each kid $100 and charge them with the task of buying each sibling a well thought out Christmas present. Gift cards are not acceptable.

My inner frugal McDougall had a conniption and wondered about good stewardship and couldn’t they just give each other hand made coupons? We have five kids. That’s a lot of money.

But Jarrett assures me that we can generous, and our budget can handle one month of perceived excess.

Most of the kids are delighted, but the oldest is inconvenienced. We have never done this before, why are we now asking for this sort of material display of affection?

The last week or two the tree has gone up, decorations have appeared and baking has been consumed. But something else has happened. Late night secret meetings and notes have been tossed around, new questions asked and giggles have erupted.

It’s been fun.

With ten days to go before Saint Nick’s arrival, the tree is more full of gifts than it has ever been. And I struggle with thinking I’ve sold out to materialism. I need to remind myself that this experiment is maybe not about things.

-       It’s about acknowledging that this may be my eldest’s last Christmas at home for a while. Next year he is off to University and he’ll be spending December 25, 2015 at his Dads.
-       It’s reminding me that in many ways, “winter is over” and it is a new season.
-       It’s giving my kids the opportunity to know what it’s like to feel extravagant.
-       And Jesus has given me far more than I can hold.

I can celebrate that.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Book Review - Till Justice is Served - Jerrie Alexander

Till Justice is Served, by Jerrie Alexander is a fantastic, fast paced read that is sure to delight adult readers. The plot is well thought out and offers enough just enough twists and turns to keep it's readers surprised and engrossed in the 200 page book.

The story follows the life of Erin Brady, a High School Counselor, who is a suspect in a murder (or two) that has taken the life of a student. In comes Rafe, a blast from the past quasi love interest who now makes his living as a tough as nails FBI agent. Rafe reconnects with Erin and promises to make sure that those responsible are brought to justice and of course, red hot passion ensues.

Throw in a kidnapping, some well meaning but misguided neighbors and a torn wedding dress and you have an entertaining thriller for your next weekend away.

Jerrie Alexander is the author of eight books, including the Lost and Found, Inc. series.  You can connect with Jerrie at

Monday, 27 October 2014

I have now reached the anger stage

I did learn something...if you want to grieve well, some things just can't be avoided.

I do not like anger. In fact, I detest it. I don't like being angry. Angry people scare me. Growing up, we had two of Tim LaHaye's books grace our shelves at home. These are books before the "Left Behind" series. I think they were called, "Emotions, can you trust them?" and "Anger is a Choice".

I don't think I ever read them, but from what I gathered through talking about/skimming them, my immature, pre adolescent mind came to the following conclusion:

If you are/get angry, it is a sign of  character weakness and you are flawed and should be pitied.

I have held onto that  idea for the majority of my life, although I would scarcely ever say it out loud. Growing up I had this awesome friend that I'd hang out with lots, her parents were awesome too, but they fought and were mad much of the time. I just couldn't wrap my mind around that. Why couldn't these lovely people keep it together? What emotional misfortune had been thrust upon them to give them the inability to control their emotions?

I struggled with the story of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple too. All I could think of was what a mess he made and if I was his Mother I would have made him clean it up and apologize. Which led to my skepticism around Jesus being being sinless. How could he be sinless, he got mad?

Yes, I realize the error of my ways. But it has shaped me.

I've now had three critical incidents in my life which I refer to.
1. My Dad dying of pancreatic cancer when he was just 70.
2. My first husband leaving.
3. Being laid off from a job I loved.

My anger around the loss of my Dad was directed the most at my Mom. We've never had a touchy/feely relationship. She raised me in a "spare the rod, spoil the child" kind of way and it  affected how I relate to her, and in turn, how I parent my kids. After Dad died, we had a good couple of years where anything that the other person did (right down to washing the windows) was met with fury. It took me a long time to figure out that those very strong emotions was us dealing with our grief. Nasty.

When my Kid's Dad left, I did get mad. Righteously so. I won't tell you how I expressed that anger, but Ladies, if you ever need "Scorned Woman" resources, let me know. I think the fact that I did engage in activities that expressed how I was feeling was therapeutic for me and probably one of the most helpful parts of my grieving process. Actually, I will tell you one very helpful thing I did was take a Women's Self Defense course. Even though it had nothing to do with grief, being able to practice yelling and screaming and beating someone over the head with foam (sorry, Mike Kendell) was fantastic. I felt euphoric afterwards.

And now this. I had hoped that I had risen above this part of the grieving process, but not so. Things were going pretty well until the last couple of weeks. Not a day has gone by for the past two weeks where I haven't run into someone from church. Go out for supper? There they are. Answer the phone? They're calling. Get a text? It's them. Go on Facebook? There's a message from them. And the message is always the same. "We love you, we miss you and we are so upset that this has happened".
And that message is fantastic. It humbles me. It blesses me. It overwhelms me. It makes me cry.

And it makes me mad. I think if I didn't love the people so much, it would be much easier. If the people didn't love me, maybe I could accept it.

Why was I taken out of a situation where I loved and was loved? It makes no sense.

I can maybe understand it in a platitude-y "all things work together" sort of way, if you're going to remind me of that, don't bother. I know that already.

But going back to my original thought - I strongly dislike being angry. And what would my guy, Richard Rohr say? He has a devo in his book, "On the Threshold of Transformation" about anger. Here are two thoughts:

"Anger is a necessary and telling emotion long before it is any kind of sin." - good point
"Feel anger, learn what it has to tell you; but do not identify with it or it will kill you" - from Eph. 4:26-27

So that's where I sit. That's what I feel. I want to tell you that now that I've had this rant I feel so much better and likely won't feel another negative emotion for a few years, but I'm learning to know better.

If I'm going to grieve well, winter well, so spring can come, some things just can't be avoided. 

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Meditation is not for the faint of heart

I did learn something....meditation is not for the faint of heart.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely new to this. I've been on enough retreats (silent, women's and otherwise) to have lectio divina'ed with the best of them. I can dial down, hold thoughts, and sit with an open hand like nobody's business.

But I don't do it all the time.

So when Karen suggested that in this time of freaking out, I should really take time to meditate, I figured, why not, I've got the time. She suggested I read "Christian Meditation" by James Finley. They were out of them at Coles in the Mall, so I googled him, and now am in possession of a lovely PDF of an interview that he did with Gary Moon. He laid things out reasonably simply, although there isn't much simple about meditation - actually it's very simple and that's what makes it so hard.

I found my favorite chair, which now resides in Ben's room, and brought down some yogurt and granola (I don't know if you're allowed to eat yogurt and granola when you're meditating, probably not, although it does seem like food the mystics would have enjoyed) and picked a word to set my mind on.

My go to word in these situations is usually "Jesus" - go figure - but this time I thought I'd mix things up a bit and chose "love".  I set my timer for 25 minutes. That seems like a reasonable amount of time. I shut my eyes and started to dwell on my word.

Not long after I realize I have to pick granola out of my teeth. My tongue starts digging around and I'm wondering if this is considered multitasking while meditating.

The granola thing is now dealt with, and my attempt to experience the presence of God continues. That lasts for about 15 seconds and I start to giggle. You see, I have this rash on my arm, I've had it since about August. Way too long to have a rash. I did go to the Doctor and he gave me cream but it's still there 2 months later. I did some research and discovered that I've been putting vaginal yeast infection cream on my rash. That's probably why it's not really working. Anyway, the whole "vaginal yeast infection cream on my arm" thing is really quite funny and of course I'm distracted easily at the best of times. So the next 5 minutes of my precious meditation time was spent in utter bemusement.

Focus Beckie, focus.

Maybe I should sing. That could give me some spiritual direction. I'm a singer, surely there are lots of songs that could help guide me into oneness with my Creator.  Alas, the only song, and I mean ONLY song that my mind could think of was "No One Mourns the Wicked" from Wicked.

Good grief.

I check my timer. 9 minutes left. This isn't going well.

So I have more work to do around this. I think I will attempt it again, maybe tomorrow. And for today I will rest on this James Finley quote, "First, from the standpoint of contemplation, God’s invincible love for me is absolutely sovereign, regardless of the degree or the extent to which I respond to it or

Nice. Or the amount which I'm able to concentrate or not.

Friday, 10 October 2014

My Ego is having a Tantrum

I did learn ego is having a tantrum.

I wondered what was going on with me this week. I felt so out of sorts. I wrote a post but didn't "publish" it on FB because I didn't really want you to see me like this. 

I feel indignant to the position I am now in. 
The word I used was inconvenienced.
I sent the post to two people, my darling husband and my BFF. Their response was that:
1. I'm pretty normal
2. I'm having a tantrum

Well frankly I don't like either. I want my struggle in my circumstances to be NOT a struggle. I thought I was so "connected" as Richard Rohr says, that I can float from experience to event to joy to sorrow without so much as a hiccup.

And speaking of Richard Rohr, on Tuesday he said, 

All you can do is stay connected to the Source, which connects you to everything else. We don’t know how to be perfect, but we can stay in union. “If you remain in me and I remain in you,” says Jesus, “you can ask for whatever you want and you’re going to get it” (see John 15:7). When you’re connected, there are no coincidences or accidents anymore.

God help me in my unbelief.

The BFF, ok let's just call her Karen, because that's her name, then went on to say, "What I hear your post really saying is 'I am not special anymore, and I am not even sure who I am anymore.' And that's really appropriate for where you are."
I don't like that she said that.

In May I spoke at church and COINCIDENTALLY ENOUGH the sermon ended up being about ego. The text was John 3:30 "He must become greater, I must become less." In the Greek, the direct translation of the last part of the verse is "ego must become less". And I went on to say that opportunities for our ego to become less are usually inconvenient and not sought after.

Damn right. 

Maybe I'm stumbling upon something here. Maybe change  (and my resistance to it) has more to do with my ego and my plan than I thought. She then suggested I do some work around meditation and suggested the book "Christian Meditation" by James Finley. 

So this should be interesting. Stay tuned... 


Wednesday, 8 October 2014

the middle of fear

I did learn doesn't get any easier, living in the middle of fear and uncertainty.

I've done it before. More than once. And I've made it through. And each time I made it through I said to myself, "See? Next time I won't worry - God took care of me/us." I told myself that next time I'm in a hard situation I won't need to cry/fret/stress/freak out because I know that I know that I know that I will be looked after.

God help me in my unbelief. Sitting here thinking about what's coming in a couple months - or what is not coming - the fear can almost strangle me. Because of something else I've learned along the way.

Sometimes the worst that can happen actually happens.

So I can go there. Sit there. Camp there.
Or I can steer my mind to a happy place filled with unicorns and rainbows.
Equally as delusional.

The fact of the matter is, I was VERY comfortable in my position. Sure, I had no pension, but once I finished my M. Div., that would come.

I think what I am most fearful of is the fact that likely, I am going to be uncomfortable.
Likely, I need to reinvent myself.
That takes work.
And in that work lies risk.
Risk of rejection.
Risk of pain.
Risk of uncertainty.
Risk of no comfort.

I really, really liked the person I was. It was good for me, my family, those people around me. It worked.

This week I feel anger. I feel like a sacrificial lamb.

My heart acknowledges that I'm most upset because plain and simple I am being inconvenienced. I am now fearful. I am now needing to look at myself and answer the question, "How am I going to survive this time?"

It doesn't get any easier, living in the middle of fear and uncertainty, because even though God has kept me this far along, I can't help but wonder if this is the one time that he won't....

Monday, 6 October 2014

Kindness in change

I did learn something....kindness in change.

Kindness in Change. That's my new buzz phrase. Not because it's some sort of mantra I need to share with the world, but because it's something I desperately need to show myself. The last 5 years of my life have been nothing short of "change riddled", I moved 3 times, had a marriage end and another one begin, been a mother to 4 (now 5), experienced career highs and new lows, almost lost my shirt financially...the list of stressors just keep rolling.

And I kept rolling.
Stress at home? No problem.
No money? I can be creative. Pasta is our friend.
Need someone to move a piano? Well, that one was plain and simple a miracle every time. I don't EVER want to have to ask people for that again.
Introduce someone new into my kids' lives? Just keep'll be ok....

Was I kind to myself in those times? I don't really think I had that option.  I suppose I did, in that I beelined it to my Doctor pretty quick and he ever so wisely gave me that prescription for my 1/2 dose of Effexor. I think I could have managed my way through without it, but I would have cried a lot more and slept a lot less. It was more about survival.

Now that I'm in between jobs I feel a real pull to find something that will be a quick fix. Something that will give me security and peace of mind NOW. And I could. But I'm not sure that's showing myself any real kindness (or any life) in the long haul.

Just the other day I was doing something that was making me money and I was not loving it. It was actually a profound moment for me. I was doing it. I could easily do this thing for the rest of my life. And there was NO JOY. It was rote, it was automatic, but there was no life there.

Yesterday I got to play piano for an event. I used to play piano for everything. And then I was in a position for many years when I couldn't play, time just didn't allow for it. Yesterday it was back. The joy, the life. The keys were in my hands.

About 12 years ago I was playing for an Easter service. I can't remember what song I was playing but I felt sense a strong sense of God's presence. Then I heard these words (if you ask me if I've ever heard God speak audibly, this would be the one time), "Beckie, when you play and your heart is right, it is not you that's playing, it's me. I have simply chosen your fingers to play through."

In that, there is joy, there is life.
There is kindness to myself and others.

I know I can't pay the bills going around playing the piano all the time. But I can show kindness to myself by doing that which gives me life. Doing what I was made to do. And as I look for that which WILL pay the bills, I can play again....and experience kindness in the middle of my change.


Friday, 26 September 2014

I have choice

I did learn something - I have choice. I can sit here and wallow in the pain of what has happened. And wisely, I do need to grieve this one well if I want to move on to a new season in a healthy way. But I have this insane fear that I'm going to get stuck in grief, in disappointment, in depression. So how do I grieve well while still moving forward?

I've been seeing a Career Counselor. She is amazing. My friend Maple (who I talked about yesterday, she's getting a lot of air time) suggested I google "theravive". Oh wow was that ever a great idea. You type in whatever your issue is and where you're located and BANG - there is a list of Counselors for most every issue known to man. This person I'm seeing is an Art Therapist, a "Whole Brain Practioner" , a Career Counselor, was in ministry herself for 20 years and is an all around remarkable woman. I am so grateful she can process this with me. Anyway, she and I have done lots of testing around where my strengths and weaknesses lie and where I should go.

Based on the way my brain is wired, my top 4 career choices should be:

1. Pastor (hmmm.....)
2. Art Museum Curator
3. Doctor
4. Lawyer

not too far down the list are the more amusing:

8. Horticultural Manager
9. Blacksmith
14. Stonemason
18. Cavity Wall Insulator

I laugh.

I started on my Masters of Divinity a couple of years ago. So do I want to finish that? Yep. Would be a smart move. But schooling costs money and I have many mouths to feed. Not to mention that Ben starts University next fall.
I love to write. I love to speak. I am a musician.
I love groups of people. the bigger the better.

If I stay still for too long I get a headache. (Like right now I've had just about as much "alone time" as I can take). 

So my people - if you were me, what would you do next?

Thursday, 25 September 2014

I did learn something - things really do happen in threes.

Big picture
The way I feel now, I've felt this way two other times in my life.

The first one was when my Dad was dying. When I had to accept that no matter how much I prayed, no matter how many scripture verses I "claimed", my Dad was going to die. There was nothing I could do about it.

The second was when my Kid's Dad left. I knew he had wanted to go for a long time. I think I did eek out more time through begging/pleading/manipulation, but my counselor said it best, "He has chosen to live a life which does not include you." Yep. That was it.

And now this. How unbelievably ironic that less than three days before this happened, I sat in front of all of you and bared my soul and told you how much I loved my church and place of employment, and how desperately sad I was that so many people were leaving.

I had no idea that in 72 hours that number would include me, too. (Some of you thought that my last blog post was about me being laid off, it wasn't.)

To say I was shocked was an understatement. In fact, I think I laughed at them when they first told me. I don't remember much - one of them wore a pink shirt, there was a glass of water there for me, and a letter. It was over in less than 5 minutes.

They were kind. Reasons were financial. Board asked them to reduce staff. I have a good severance package. I can keep my phone, my laptop......

Am I sad? Incredibly.
Am I mad? No. Not my style.
Am I hurt? Incredibly.
Am I bitter? No. Not my style.
I have all the support in the world. The same cannot be said for others.

Through my disappointment the words that my friend Maple shared with her son and his friends as he left for University in England rested on me. "Being loved like this is a wonderful thing, and you are all so fortunate to have experienced it."

I can go with that.  Many people never know the joy of being able to hop out of bed in the morning and almost rushing to work because you couldn't wait to be there. Many people don't know what it's like to count the people that you rub shoulders with on a daily/weekly basis as your family. Many people don't know what it's like to be able to trust the people around you with your life.

And maybe that's why I'm so sad. Because I do know what's it's like. 

(if you need to add more mushiness to your life, please go to YouTube now and watch Kristin and Idina sing "For Good" from Wicked - trust me, you'll be a mess for the rest of the day)

Small Picture
Until the end of time, I will remember September 2014 for the following 3 critical incidents:
          1. Moving (if you want to know what I thought about that, just scroll down my blog) I honestly do not know what I would have ever done without Jarrett. He is simply the best. Such a gift.
          2. This being laid off thing
          3. One word - lice - oh ya, I said it. Horrifying.

Still itching.....

Sunday, 7 September 2014

I did learn something....saying goodbye to church family is hard.

The word "Pastor" hangs outside my office, and because it does, I have felt that my skin needs to be beyond thick, that I cannot feel and that I need to be happily understanding of every situation. If this post offends you I apologize and hope that I'm not violating some "code" by admitting that my heart is soft and can bruise.

My Dad was a Pastor too, always small churches. Because the churches were small, I understood it was of the utmost importance that we kept every person in the church from leaving the church. But of course that's an impossible task, and from time to time people would become bored with my Dad's preaching, or would disagree with him, or feel that it was a time for change and leave the church. That would throw my Dad into the emotional pit of discouragement and my Mom told me that it was up to her and I to pull him out of it.

Don't know if we ever did.

When I felt the call to service to the church I was relieved that the options available to me were in larger churches, where I thought I wouldn't have to fear the paralyzing reality of rejection when people left. And for the most part that has been true. People have come, people have gone. I have been able to "bless them as they go." But during the 7 1/2 years that I've been at the church where I'm at now, they have truly become my family. (and being an only child with no cousins closer than Southern Ontario reinforces that) I love them. I cook with them. I eat with them. I sit at their bedsides when they're dying. I hang out with them when they've been admitted to the Psych Ward. I'm in their hospital room when they find out their baby has died. I rejoice with them when life suddenly hands them a bowl of cherries. I laugh with them when their dreams come true. We go shopping. We go to restaurants. When they think they hear the voice of God I help them discern. I love them. They are my family.

They are my kid's family too. 

And when, for whatever reason, they feel called away - I've been brave. In some cases I truly understand their reasoning for leaving. In finding out what some people truly believe I've said to them, "Oh ya, you need to go." But in this years' church shuffle that inevitably finds itself happening around this time, it struck me differently than before.

I cried.

Because I felt like I was losing my family. Family I cried with. Family I laughed with. Family who walked with me through dark days. Family that rejoiced with me when ashes were turned into beauty.

I wasn't disappointed with them for leaving because I felt like they owed me something for all the years of service I had given to them.

I was sad because of what they had given me. The gift of family. And I didn't want to lose that.

So I automatically do what I do when people leave, I unfollow them from my timeline. (Because most of the time, when people leave the church, they start posting  about how great their life is now that they're at a new church. Sorry folks, can't go there. Too soon.) I distance myself from them relationally. I redirect my mind so my sadness can't linger.

Usually that works.

But this year my grief is more tender than usual. I let my tears flow a little more freely.

I feel the cost of loving people. Again. 

Sunday, 24 August 2014

I did learn something....learning to pray for my Kid's Dad is a new idea.

When I was married to my Kid's Dad, there was a stream of books by Stormie Omartian on the market, the most widely read being, "The Power of a Praying Wife". I bought it. I pretty much memorized it. If I still had it today (I have no idea if I kept it or not) you would see that it's dog eared and underlined and highlighted and tear stained. The book didn't work for me (obviously) maybe because I was trying to use prayer to manipulate my Kid's Dad into loving me and wanting to stay. To steal a page from Bonnie Raitt, "I can't make you love me" neither can I pray you into loving me.

That was years ago, I've moved on. I've married again. Jarrett is the most wonderful man. Very different from my Kid's Dad, but we are completely compatible and I love him with all my heart. I thought that most every first marriage rip in my heart had healed, that every tear had been shed,  every dream given it's due release. And then I stumbled upon something I wasn't looking for.

John McElhenney is a blogger, and probably a counselor (I haven't actually checked) and someone who seems to be super "in touch" with his emotional side. He writes for "The Good Man Project" his blog is I often read his posts. He's divorced, and captures the pain and hope of that journey splendidly. On July 2 his post was called, "Prayer for Single Parents, and my Ex". I was intrigued, because although I strive to bless my Kid's Dad through my words and wish him well, to read all that encapsulated in a prayer was something different altogether.

The prayer read:

“I wish you happiness in your new life, I always want to see you shine, you are the other half, the partner in this parenting journey we accepted together. Your joy is joy for our kids. Your peace is their peace, and mine. As we walk separate paths we are blameless and grateful for the gifts we’ve been given. And to you, my dear ex, I give the deepest respect and love. Thank you for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going, still a family, still parents, still blessed.” 

Ugh. That was hard. The first time I read it I didn't get to the end of the first line before strong emotions welled up inside me. I can't pray these words. I can't bless him like this. And then I start to doubt my healing journey. Too soon? It shouldn't be, I tell myself. I thought I'd made such peace with every part that needed peace. I shouldn't be feeling anger, hurt, betrayal. And I begin to feel less of myself and my walk. 

I'm not there yet. Maybe I won't get there in this life. Maybe I will. And it's ok. Maybe I was never meant to pray those words. 

As I sit at my computer and bare my soul to you, my friends,  God whispers to my heart, "Those were John's words. Your words to bless your Kid's Dad will be different. They'll be words just for you."

Freedom. Good thing.


Thursday, 21 August 2014

I did learn kids watching the news on TV may not be the best thing.

When I was young I was a voracious watcher of the news. I'll never know if it was because I really had a predisposition towards the news, or because it was one of the few television shows I was allowed to watch. (other than the news, the shows I could watch that were longer than 30 minutes were: Little House on the Prairie, Lawrence Welk, Bugs Bunny and of course HNIC) Whatever the reason, very early on I became a lover of current affairs, I had a good understanding of our political system and I enjoyed speaking with adults about the conflict in the Middle East. (Yes, I'm an only child. If you didn't know until now, that just totally gave it away)

By the time I was 11, I had my own subscription to MacLeans.

My friends thought I was weird. My friend's parents wanted their kids to be more like me. And I couldn't wait to have kids of my own, so I could educate them in the ways of Peter Mansbridge and Knowlton Nash. Not to mention my high regard for Peter Gzowski, but that's a post for another day.

Now I'm 16 years into this whole parenting thing, and I think it's gone pretty well. But this morning I began to rethink the whole "let's watch the news first thing every morning" component of our schedule.  I turned the TV to CNN because I knew Kent Brantly was being released from his Atlanta Hospital and I wanted to hear what he had to say. But before the news went there, my 12 year old saw:
1. a picture of James Foley and his beheader, shortly before the event
2. the violence and unrest in Ferguson
3. an erupting volcano in Iceland
4. a report on everything that could go wrong now that the Ebola strain has landed on American soil

We really never got past #1 in our debriefing of what had just been on. I was soon processing with my dear, sweet Chrissy:
1. Who is ISIS
2. Are they in North America
3. What could happen if they ever arrived in North America
4. Did only one person do the beheading or was there a group
5. Why would people do that
6. Does ISIS just hate Americans, what about Canadians, and do they hate their own people as well
7. Why do some people think they will be rewarded in heaven for killing on earth

It was all a bit much. I tried to answer honestly, without using any fear inducing language, but it was hard. I wanted to do justice to her intelligence while holding in tension the big questions about why there is such evil in world, especially when we hold to the fact that God is love.

It was a sobering parenting moment for me. I usually tell my kids that knowledge is power, but this morning I asked myself about the cost of that power.

Maybe tomorrow we'll just watch cartoons.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

I did learn something.....if you make Cookie Dough Truffles, you will want to eat them.

These last few days I've been avoiding packing, avoiding processing, avoiding the emotions that come with moving from a house that I am wildly in love with, to a house that's fine. It will do, it will work. It's nice. It's on the Mountain, I have a view. I'm grateful that we've been given it.

But let me tell you the story of this house, that will be forever known as "Zanatta".

5 or 6 years ago, the place where we are living for a precious few days was a completely undeveloped side of a mountain. Basically, a big rock. But considering that we live in the Lower Mainland, if it can be developed, it will be developed. And as I drove past this lovely nugget of the earth several times a day and saw houses going up, something pulled at my heart strings and for reasons that I cannot understand, I said to myself, "That's where I'm going to live!"

So my Kid's Dad and I looked at 4 or 5 houses on the street not long after they went up. But we didn't buy one, for reasons that I don't even know. I suspect it was that we wanted the biggest and most that our mortgage dollar would give us. (that backfired, but that's a story for another day) And that's what we bought.

Fast forward a few years and I was living alone with my kids in our 4200 square foot bundle of financial destruction, and I decided that I could not live there anymore. I met with my Kid's Dad and explained the situation and we agreed that I would move out and he would move in.

And I had a month to figure out where I was going to go. So where did I turn?

Yep. Craigslist.

I had my wish list and as I combed though the listings there was ONE, yes, ONE house that would work for us. And guess which street it was on? The very street of my dreams. The street that had called to me years ago. And through nothing short of a miracle, I was picked as the new occupant of Zanatta. It was with joy and shouts of glee that my friend's moved us 13 short months ago. I vowed to those around me that this good gift that was given to me and my family was where I would spend the rest of my days. The plan was that I'd buy it in a couple years after my finances had rebounded from the shock of divorce and become best friends with everyone on the street.

And a lot did happen in that short year. I married a wonderful man named Jarrett and we welcomed him and his son, Jaremie, into Zanatta. Good thing I was smart enough to look for 6 bedrooms. We had space to be together and space to be apart. No fighting over bathrooms. It was ideal.

Then we got a letter that the Owners were moving back in. I went into shock. Denial. Anger. Tears. The whole grief cycle. Why would God give me this dream many years ago, and then the dream actually came true, only for it to be taken away after only one year? Why?

I don't know yet. I wish I did. So we go forward, I'll slap on my happy face and make it though. And this morning I finished making Cookie Dough Truffles for my kids (read: me) and whenever we eat them we can remember the great times we had in this great house.
                                 Oh ya - totally email me for the recipe. They are fantastic!

Thursday, 14 August 2014

I did learn something...story is powerful.

I'm a Preacher's Kid, and I'd NEVER listen to my Dad's sermons. Oh I was there, in the building, sitting in a pew, but I was usually writing notes to my friends, or when I got older, I was harmonically analyzing the chords progressions from the Hymn Book. Until he told a story...

The I'd listen - couldn't wait to hear what he had to say. Sometimes it was even about me. (I liked those ones the best) Story is what makes even the most hardened of PK's listen to their Dad with rapt attention.

Story is what drives social media today. Well, that and our own narcissism. Story is finding the intersection between your life and mine. Without story, we are strangers.

When I look at cultures and generations that have gone before, the most important thing they passed on to those who were just coming up were the stories. It wasn't a list of dos and don'ts. It was the stories that they had heard when they were young. Think of the bedtime stories you told your kids when they were small, when did you learn them? I bet they were the ones that were told to you. We don't forget them.

I like to occasionally get the new FB friend that I don't know all that well and then I start digging. (not to be confused with creeping, of course) Through FB, what have they disclosed to me about their story? And what do I tell people about mine?

Story of course has a downside. It can be voracious. I once took a class where the Prof said that gossip is to women what porn is to men. I don't know that I completely agree, but there may be a kernel of wisdom there. Did we really need to know how Robin Williams was found dead? What position he was in? No. After I heard it, my husband and I had a long talk about how long it would have taken, and did he pass right after he said good night to his wife and how long does it take for rigor mortis to set in and a whole lot of things that are honestly none of our business. Some stories don't need to be told to the world.

But having said that, I will never forget those details.

Because story is powerful.

This was at theologian Fred Buechner's blog a few days ago,  "It is absolutely crucial, therefore, to keep in constant touch with what is going on in your own life's story and to pay close attention to what is going on in the stories of others' lives. If God is present anywhere, it is in those stories that God is present. If God is not present in those stories, then they are scarcely worth telling.

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

I did learn something...even if you hurt my feelings, good things will still happen to you.

That may seem like a bizarre statement. Of course - the rain falls and the sun shines on each of us. But for me, because I internalize things so deeply, and maybe because I read the Psalms A LOT where David and his cohorts confidently pronounce utter destruction on those who don't follow the straight and narrow ("Break the arms of these wicked, evil people! Go after them until the last one is destroyed." Psalm 10:15 - a good example) I expect that if you are unkind and hurtful to me, my friends and family, bad things will happen to you. Call it some sort of Christian Karma. Besides, I can back it up with verses like "what you sow, you shall also reap" - Galatians 6:7.

Except that's not the way it is.

I've seen people who have done horrible things to others given lavish gifts of beautiful homes, promotions at work, the ability to take exotic vacations with those who are close to them. How come? Shouldn't God have smote them by now?

Last year when I was on sabbatical, I had two profound thoughts occur to me. OK maybe they weren't that profound, but I did see them with much clarity.

Thought #1 - they are just as valuable and as loved as I am
Thought #2 - God wants good for them just as much as he wants good for me

When Jesus came to earth as a man he was heralded as the word Emmanuel - God with us. And if God is with us, who can be against us.

God is for me, yes.
But even if you have caused me great pain, God is also for you, and wants good for you.
And God rejoices when I am happy.
And if you've damaged my reputation by words that you've spoken, God is not plotting your demise. (We seem to be able to do that on our own)

Not to say God doesn't want reconciliation and reconnection and unity, that's a post for another day.

When I think about the idea of forgiveness, my goal is not about forgetting the past, the words, the actions. Instead, I look to celebrate the good things that have happened to those who have hurt me. Celebrate the God that loves me "to the moon and back" thinks the same of them as well. I've even tried to secretly arrange a promotion for someone who causes me grief. But that was just once.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

I did learn something....the chasm between being ok and not ok, is probably quite small. Likely, most bloggers in the Western Hemisphere are writing about Robin Williams death today. We are stunned, we are sad. We need to process.
I've already read many great posts about mental illness and shame and brokenness in the past 18 hours. I don't think I have much new to add to the dialogue except for this:

At what point do we go from just having a bad day, to needing help? Or, how many bad days in a row does it take from just feeling blue to it being something more? If we are in position where we need help, how many of us are able to ask for it?

I can only speak for myself. When my kid's Dad left me several years ago, I did have the presence of mind to go see my Doctor pretty early on. I told him what was going on and that I needed two things. I needed to sleep and I needed to stop crying all the time. I had 4 kids to raise, I worked full time in a position where I was in a fishbowl, I wanted to make good, wise decisions and I wasn't sure I could without getting help. (Looking back, I'm not sure that all my decisions were good and wise, but I did try)

He gave me a half dose of Effexor which I've now been on for years. I wouldn't be surprised if I was on it for the rest of my life.

Not that I'm advocating for drugging ourselves into oblivion. I also had a counselor who I saw every week. I had a life coach that I saw once a month. I had an army of people praying for me. I meditated. I read. I prayed. (I also screamed and cried - but not all the time)

Last night was an odd night in that I couldn't sleep. (an upside to my medication is that I can pretty much sleep anytime, anywhere) My mind was full, I was irritated and I was processing Robin's untimely departure. And I thought about stress and how much I still carry. There are financial concerns, we're moving in 3 days, concerns with the kids, learning to be a step parent to a special needs child, being newly married but having 5 kids and how exactly does one have any alone time in that scenario, difficult conversations that I need to have with people at work, disappointment at work, and the list goes on.

At what point do we get to say - it's all too much? Or are we just expected to shoulder it because we live in affluent North America and we live in nice houses and we drive new cars. When does stress stop being "healthy" (because I know the way I'm wired, I need a certain degree of stress in order to get anything done) and become detrimental?

Where's the tipping point?

Monday, 11 August 2014

I did learn something.... If you can't do something well, maybe you should just leave it for a time when you can do it well. You don't have to do everything just because it's there.
This is completely contrary to how I'm wired. I am wired to plow through whatever circumstances and obstacles are coming at me. I will achieve and I will finish and it will be done no matter how ugly the outcome is. A classic example from another Mom: last night my kids and I watched last week's "Amazing Race Canada" and we watched Mother and Son team Nicole and Cormac at a road block. Nicole had to ride her bike for a kilometer and then get down and shoot 5 perfect shots with her biathalon gun. It took her forever. Like, hours. She cried. I cried along with her. I think it took her 22 tries to get it. They ended up being eliminated and we were all so sad, but she finished - that was the important lesson she wanted to leave her son with, (never give up) and he got it, and it was powerful. That is fantastic "first half of life" thinking, and there is a place for it, but as I'm comfortably in my 40's now, I see things with a bit of a different eye.
(By the way, "first half of life" thinking is a Richard Rohr thing. He's a Franciscan Monk that lives in New Mexico and I'm a fan of many things that he has to say - I will talk about him again.)
The grey hairs on my head tell me a different story. Sometimes less is more. You can't force success. (or even completion) You can't control an outcome just because you really, really want it, or because you're a really, really nice person. Sometimes it's better to graciously bow out of a situation rather than doing an "OK" job. Throwing the baby out with the bathwater is sometimes just what you need to do.

I remember at the end of Soccer Camp one year I had no money in my budget for "thank you" gifts for my coaches, so I gave them each a pad of post it notes and told them how "attached" we were to them. Lame. A heart felt thank you would have been much more appreciated, I'm sure. All a pad of post it notes said was that I was out of money but felt an obligation.

For the past few years at church we've had a "Church in the Park" service at my kid's Elementary School as a kick off to summer. We booked the field months before the date but a few weeks before it was scheduled to happen, we were told we couldn't use the field. So I decided we could just have the picnic in the back parking lot of the church. So what had traditionally been potluck and games and water balloons turned into pavement and hot dogs and crazy UV rays. I mean, it wasn't a total disaster. But 3 legged races on asphalt just aren't the same as frolicking through meadows of perfectly coiffed fields of green. Maybe I should have just left it for this year. Not done it until I could do it well.

I've had relationships where I tried and tried and tried. Tried so hard to make people happy. Tried everything to make them like/love me. Prayed and prayed and prayed. Nothing. The healthiest thing I've been able to do is to give those relationships distance. I can't see clearly when I'm right in the middle of my emotions. I don't have to be everybody's friend just because they're there. And there ARE seasons for everything.  I think I read that somewhere.